VIA Metropolitan Transit board members unanimously voted Tuesday to discuss options beyond the recommendation of Mayor Ron Nirenberg and County Judge Nelson Wolff for replacing Chair Hope Andrade, whose term expired at the end of November.
Trustee Kristi Villanueva broached the topic at the board’s work session Tuesday, pointing to its effort to pass a local ballot measure in November that will reallocate an existing one-eighth-cent sales tax to VIA. Villanueva said she hopes to see the collaboration and unity required for that initiative continue under future leadership. But she lamented the lack of board involvement in selecting VIA’s future leader.
“The biggest thing is I was hoping that we could have had, at least, a combination of internal and external candidates and have seen some sort of hard copy of a vision statement,” Villanueva said. “That would have been the bare minimum. And as we are charged to preserve the credibility and integrity of this agency as trustees, we also have a responsibility to the people of this community.”
In November, Nirenberg and Wolff threw their support behind Fernando Reyes, a local manufacturing executive whose company supplies parts to Toyota. The mayor and county judge usually put forward a candidate, who is then voted into their position by the board of trustees, but board members also can nominate candidates.
“I know historically the mayor and county judge have suggested a member to be the chair [but] we didn’t get any help from the City when it came to the [VIA ballot proposition],” Trustee A. David Marne said. “I don’t know that we owe this [to them].”
Villanueva and Marne expressed concern over having only Reyes put forth as a candidate to the board.
“Someone running unopposed to a vacancy is unheard of,” Marne said. “If we’re going to choose someone, there should be some choice.”
Trustees offered no comments specifically about Reyes, but Marne pointed to VIA’s past two chairs – Andrade, who served as Texas secretary of state under Gov. Rick Perry, and Rey Saldaña, the youngest person elected to City Council who left his role at VIA this year to serve as the president and CEO of national nonprofit Communities in Schools – as a standard that VIA should keep in mind.
“Last time we had the secretary of state of Texas,” Marne said. “The time before that we had a rising star who I believe one day is going to be a congressman or for sure at minimum is gonna be the mayor of the city. So who is the next person going to be? Since we don’t have competing people … is this comparable to what we had in the past?”
Because the item on Tuesday’s agenda was developing the agenda for its regular meeting next Tuesday, trustees could not discuss the election of the board chair. They instead agreed to call a special meeting either Monday or Tuesday to consider other nominees before the formal vote on the new chair, scheduled for VIA’s regular meeting Tuesday.